Potential Draft Picks: Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys trio of cornerbacks are just about as good as one could hope for. Starters Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins were Pro Bowlers. Nickel second-year man Orlando Scandrick did take a step back from his rookie year, but improved vastly in the second half of the 2009 season.
Despite being on the field for just 573 snaps (as compared to 944 and 1,007 for Jenkins and Newman, respectively), Scandrick was targeted nearly as much as the starters. In fact, Scandrick was targeted on 14.5 percent of snaps which he took the field, highest in the entire NFL. While a large part of this number is certainly due to the talent of Jenkins and Newman, Scandrick did struggle a bit in the slot. His speed allows him to nearly always be in position, but he just did not make plays on the ball.
Still, Scandrick is a solid third cornerback. The Cowboys, if you remember, even began the 2009 season rotating starts between Scandrick and Jenkins before ultimately handing the job over to Mike.
As we all know, though, you can never have too many talented cornerbacks. Newman stayed healthy all of last season, but that is a bit of a rarity. The team cannot expect that again and should be well-equipped to deal with an injury or two down the stretch.
The depth of the position allows the team to not necessarily focus on cornerback, but simply select one in the middle or late rounds if he is the best player on their board. Alabama CB Javier Arenas, who we profiled as one of our ten players to watch at the NFL Combine this week, might be a good selection. The versatility he provides with his return abilities would justify the pick.
Let’s start with the physical: Arenas is small. He might have been a first round selection if it wasn’t for his 5’9” frame. At that height, you would want Arenas to have blazing speed, but he doesn’t. He may run a mid-4.4 at the Combine.
Despite his lack of top-end speed, Arenas is a very good athlete. At corner, he has very fluid hips and adequate ball skills. He may have trouble competing to get the ball at its highest point, so his vertical leap could be more important than it is for other prospects.
Arenas is a tremendous return man that is capable of returning both punts and kickoffs. In 2009, he averaged over 15 and 29 yards on punt returns and kick returns, respectively. He displays outstanding vision on returns and doesn’t take too many wasted steps, getting upfield smoothly. He often resembles a running back once he gets his hands on the ball.
Overall, Arenas’ fluidity and return ability reminds us of Boise State prospect and fellow cornerback Kyle Wilson. Again, if Arenas was two inches taller, we believe he would be a borderline first round selection.
With teams placing an increased emphasis on the return game, the ability to return both punts and kickoffs could vault Arenas into the second round. To go there, though, he would have to prove to a team that he is capable of playing as a nickel CB.
Arenas would be an incredible pick in the back of the third round (Cowboys select #91). If he drops that far and Dallas has not yet upgraded the returner spots, expect Arenas to be a possibility to come in and become a return specialist who will add depth to the cornerback spot, perhaps pushing Alan Ball to full-time free safety.
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